Health That extra living space could kill you

That extra living space could kill you

Thinking of moving to a bigger place in the suburbs? Research from RMIT University may change your mind.

Deciding where to live in Australian cities normally comes down to convenience and cost versus space but RMIT’s results suggest there could be another factor: life expectancy.

Its study of two locations in Melbourne, Truganina and Altona North, shows urban design can have noticeable effects on chronic disease and even how long we live.

In Altona North, higher density development is occurring in an established area, adjacent to existing infrastructure and closer to the CBD.

The study found residents there had a lower incidence of conditions linked to physical inactivity, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer compared to those living in Truganina, a lower density growth area on the urban fringe.

The results translated to an extra healthy month’s lifespan per resident and a saving of $4500 in treatment costs.

While that might not sound like much over a lifetime, the numbers begin to multiply across a wider population.

For Altona North alone, savings amounted to $94 million for its population of 21,000.

Researcher Lucy Gun says the difference comes down to incremental opportunities for exercise, with denser suburbs creating a more walkable environment that encourages greater physical movement.

“If you build a healthier environment there is an economic value that comes back to society,” Dr Gunn says.

“We generally already know this, but this new study details this benefit in health and economic terms.

“Our research could be applied to major infrastructure projects where the economic and health benefits could sway design decisions and the allocation of funding.”

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